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Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The Lavender Farm

field of lavendin
"Fancy a day in Kent?" asked emminlondon.  A break from Brexit, politicians, imploding political parties and to top it off clean air!  I leapt at the opportunity.

In less than an hour the woes of London were far behind me, even unreliable Southern Rail behaved and the train actually turned up and kept to schedule.

It was a glorious day as we drove through the lovely countryside and passed through quaint English villages until we reached the lavender farm.  Wow.  Our timing was perfect, it is just a week or two away from harvest so the fields were looking their picture postcard best.

In Victorian times this part of Kent was renown for growing hops.  As recently as the 1950's and 60's working class families from London would spend their annual holidays picking the hops which would then be transported to London to be traded at the Hop Exchange. Times change and for the family farm to remain viable they needed to diversify.  Beef, apples, dried flowers and honey are among the new products, but the biggest crop is lavender covering 85 acres making it the largest lavender farm in the UK.

field of lavender


To get a closer look at the fields and learn about the behind the scenes workings of the farm we took the one and half hour tour.  Starting in a magnificent field of lavendin with a flower stem in hand gently squeeze the flower bud to get the full nest of the scent, then off to an equally grand field of lavender to learn the difference between the two.  Well what is the difference you ask?  A rather big one actually.  Lavender is what we traditionally know, what our grannies put in the underwear draw, the little sachets under the pillow to help you sleep.  Yes it is a relaxant.  Lavendin on the other hand does the exact opposite, it is a stimulant and has a much stronger camphor smell.  Then it was off to the distillery to learn how the oil is extracted and the various products that are made.  Oils, balms and essences.  Medical uses and culinary uses.  Who knew that lavender was such a versatile crop.  Then it was a quick exit through the gift shop and off to explore more of the countryside, but that's for another post.

Castle Farm
Redmans Lane
Shoreham
Sevenoaks
Kent
TN14 7UB

http://hopshop.co.uk





Sunday, 24 July 2016

Ted meets Bo


.. and what a delicious encounter it proved to be … well Ted what did you expect when the chef is a Scottish-Chinese ex member of the punk dance band fabulously called shitdisco … err not sure now that you ask …

So enter (real name) Jan Lee and his wife Jae Chung and eventually (after all that other kind of creative artist stuff) their minds quite rightly turned to where they should be aka food. So welcome to Bo Drake, their East Asian restaurant with (in their own words) modern and bright food, combining sweet and pickled influences from East Asia alongside slow cooked BBQ methods from the Americas and Europe.

Now on the face of it Bo Drake is a place that probably should annoy me … it’s a no booking and sharing plates kind of place … BUT (and yes it’s a big one) it’s worth the wait … we didn’t queue in the way that you don’t have to if you’re happy to have “dunch” (dinner/lunch) at 6pm … or better still you’ve discovered that they do actually take reservations!!! Communal dishes have always been and will remain part of the traditional and culinary heritage of most cultures and Bo Drake serves up in this tradition.  Not to be confused with the small “sharing plates” that are so in vogue in metropolises’ and are so small that of course you can’t share … but you really would have liked too shared because of the silly prices - and even if you went home hungry at least you looked hip and didn’t have to sell a kidney (yes one of yours) to pay the bill...

I have recently had a rather expensive dining experience that was beyond bad … it was the ultimate in the chef and the sommelier focusing on what they like and totally forgetting that their customers may not have such rarefied or singularly focused taste buds or in fact what they were doing was just off the scale silly (you know who you are The Typing Room). 

But back to Bo Drake - the food is everything it says it will be and doesn’t pretend to be anything that it isn’t. This is great Korean influenced BBQ food – from the incredible sticky ribs and chicken wings that are now my contender for first equal in the UK. The menu is short but well formed with vegetables, seafood, meat and naturally the Korean national staple Kimchee.

… add some eminently drinkable cocktails, wines, and beers and you have an experience that you’ll go back for again and again …  

Thursday, 21 July 2016

A Real Summer Evening


Soaking up the last of the sun for the day.  We have had fabulous weather this week. 

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The Ceremony


A wee bit of magic between them, if only the boat would go in the direction intended and not keep coming back to the shore.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Under the River


The Woolwich foot tunnel passes under the Thames as an alternative route to the ferry.  Built in 1912 at a time when the Docklands was a hub of industry a welcomed route for the many workers of the period.  The tunnel was closed for just over a year from 2010 to upgrade and repair structural weaknesses.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Art in the City


A stack of cubes by artist Jurgen Partenheimer, one of the art in the city art installations that surprise in the otherwise conservative square mile.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Ted gets sunny


… oh how I wish that meant golden rays of sunlight had at last begun to fall upon London ... but alas and alack no such thing has happened to-date. So I decided that I needed to find my own “sun” and settled upon … yep you guessed it … sunflowers.

Sunflowers have long been considered symbols of happiness - perhaps because you can’t help but smile and feel just a little bit better when you look upon them.  The artist Vincent Van Gough certainly felt that way and some of his most famous works are the four sunflower paintings he created in 1888 to decorate the room of his friend and fellow artist Paul Gauguin. He had intended to paint a lot more to cover all the walls in the room, but he was a little slow that year, and was over taken by the invention of wallpaper … and then there was that little incident with his ear that wasn’t covered under public health insurance … but I digress …

Sunflowers aka Helianthus named by the Greeks for Helios “sun” and Anthos “flower” are joined by about 70 of their cousins in their particular plant genus, including that lovely edible little number the Jerusalem artichoke. The French call sunflowers “Tournesol” the Italians “Girasole” literally turn to the sun.  And turn to the sun they do each day until they reach maturity, when they pretty much settle on facing east.  This turning causes their tubers to twist and become quite knobbly - hence the shape of the Jerusalem artichoke.  

Sunflowers are native to the Americas but quickly found favour in the old world too, with their versatility in both food (huge in the pet food industry as well - yep bird feed) and oil production. The major producers are Russia, which narrowly pips the whole of EU production, followed by Ukraine, Argentina, China, India and the USA.  What really surprised me, given that sunflowers while accepting of many soil types like lots of sunshine and warmth in their growing season, was that the UK accounts for over half of the EU production … and then I realised that they are of course grown in Kent - the centre of UK horticulture, and the area most likely to get sun if anywhere does.

Sunflower seeds are a low calorie nutritious food that are rich in vitamin E, B1, and a whole bunch of trace elements that we need like magnesium, selenium and folate. And if that’s not enough the flowers are bright, sunny, and cheery, and if that doesn’t brighten you up then I don’t know what will …  

Saturday, 16 July 2016

A Grim Week


Yesterday flags were flying at half-mast in empathy for the tragedy in Nice.  Last night many were killed in a failed coup in Turkey and last week hundreds were killed in a suicide bomb in Baghdad.

We are living in difficult times with no clear way out of this mess.  Violence and marginalising groups is not working, can we try something else please.  We need a true international peace maker to step up for the job.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Wedding Season


It's the tourist season for couples to come to London for their weddings.  The most popular background for their photos is Tower Bridge. However this couple have chosen the 14th century Leadenhall Market in the City of London, now more famous for representing "the leaky cauldron" and "Daigon Alley" in the film Harry Potter and the Philosophers stone.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Butterflies


The entrance to the flower show at Hampton Court, hinting to the real butterflies that were inside.
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